Celestial Navigation Weekend
June 6-8, 2008
Mystic Seaport Planetarium

For inquiries or to make a reservation, please use our contact form: www.fer3.com/Mystic2008/contact
(Note: please do not attempt to send direct email to addresses at fer3.com --use the contact form).



The Planetarium at Mystic Seaport in conjunction with the "NavList" online community is pleased to announce the second biennial "Navigation Weekend" devoted to preserving the art and practice of celestial navigation and nautical astronomy, to be held at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut Friday through Sunday, June 6,7,8, 2008.

In an era where most navigation at sea is done by GPS and other electronic means, a vibrant community of historians and enthusiasts preserve the art of using the Sun and Moon and the stars and planets to navigate across the globe. Celestial navigation enthusiasts and practitioners as well as professional and private historians of science will be meeting to discuss the history and future of celestial navigation. Many participants in the "Navigation Weekend" are members of the "NavList" online discussion group which is committed to traditional methods of navigation and position-finding (information page for NavList: www.fer3.com/NavList).

The "Navigation Weekend" will include special presentations and demonstrations by invited speakers on historical navigation methods including the "method of lunars" or "lunar distances" which was once the epitome of the navigator's art. Aspects of sextant use and adjustment will also be discussed, and there will be opportunities to take sights from nearby coastal locations using sextants and other traditional navigational instruments. We're also celebrating fiftieth anniversary of the modern Nautical Almanac, the essential reference for celestial navigation.


FRIDAY June 6, 2008:

12:00 Noon
Meet the Navigators
Planetarium Classroom (lower level, west side). Get your name badge, pay your attendance fee (if any), and meet your fellow navigation enthusiasts as well as Seaport Planetarium staff and our host, Don Treworgy, Planetarium Director.

12:45 [time changed]
A Brief History of the Nautical Almanac
Planetarium Classroom. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the modern Nautical Almanac, Frank Reed will do a presentation on the history of the various almanacs used by navigators in the past 200 years focusing on the roundabout path leading to the Nautical Almanac we have today.

1:30pm [time changed]
Tour of Seaport Facilities
Details TBA. We'll get a behind-the-scenes look at some of the research facilities related to science and navigation at Mystic Seaport.

Inland Astronomical Navigation
Munson Room, Blunt-White Building. Geoffrey Kolbe will discuss his experiences and experiments in traditional astronomical navigation on land, in particular while trekking across deserts.

Celestial at SEA part I
Planetarium Classroom. Carl Herzog, editor of Reed's Nautical Almanac for many years, will discuss his recent experiences on sail-training vessels using celestial navigation as a cornerstone of general science education.

4:45 [updated]
News from Celestaire
Planetarium Classroom. Ken Gebhart, owner of Celestaire, the world's largest retailer of sextants today, will tell us about his recent adventures in the world of navigation commerce. Among other topics, as part of our celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the modern Nautical Almanac, he'll be discussing the the history and current status of the "Nautical Almanac: Commercial Edition." Ken will also be giving away complimentary copies of John Karl's book "Celestial Navigation in the GPS Age".

Shooting Lunars
Esker Point Waterfront Park, by Palmer's Cove in Noank (and only a hundred yards from dinner). Practical experience and demonstrations of techniques for shooting lunar distance observations. Also, if conditions permit, we will demonstrate an accurate “index correction” test using an ordinary laser level.

Dinner in Noank
Friday's group dinner will be at “The Fisherman” in Noank, immediately next to Palmer's Cove Park. Please note that there will be no special activities during this dinner. Please expect to pay for your meal and drinks.

10:00 [cancelled, for now]
Telescope Time
Near the Planetarium, weather permitting. This has been cancelled.

Note: For those who would like to arrive at Mystic Seaport early on Friday (before noon), we will be conducting a basic guided walking tour starting at 10:30am. The tour will depart from the lobby of the Planetarium at 10:30 and return by noon for the beginning of the main activities of the Navigation Weekend (paid admission to Mystic Seaport or membership required).

SATURDAY June 7, 2008

Nineteenth Century Lunars: Errors and Accuracy
Planetarium Classroom. Using evidence from the logbooks in the collection of Mystic Seaport, Frank Reed will discuss the basics of lunar distance observations, the math that accompanied those observations, and some of the ways that things could go wrong.

The Early Solar Tables
Planetarium Classroom. Herbert Prinz will discuss Lacaille's solar tables, some of the earliest accurate tables that made the first nautical almanacs possible.

12:15 [location changed]
Shooting Lunars and the Noon Sun
Eastern Point in Groton. An excellent opportunity to try your hand at shooting and clearing lunars. Good observers can find their longitude within 12 miles using this historic method, once the epitome of the navigator's art. We will also try out various approaches for getting latitude, and longitude, near Local Noon.

Mystic Seaport Tour
Departing from the Planetarium. Time to explore Mystic Seaport's other public exhibits, including the whaleship, Charles W. Morgan, built in 1841, either in a guided group tour or individually (paid admission to Mystic Seaport or membership required).

Celestial Navigation at Harvard
Munson Room, Blunt-White Building. Philip Sadler, navigation instructor at Harvard University, will discuss the history and current practice of celestial navigation courses at Harvard University. Harvard has been teaching celestial navigation since 1896.

Latitude by Double Altitudes
Planetarium Classroom. Joel Silverberg, Roger Williams University, will discuss the mathematics and history of “latitude by double altitudes”, a technique used especially in the 19th century when the Noon Sun and other meridian sights were unavailable.

4:45 [new addition]
Celestial at SEA part II
Planetarium Classroom. SEA faculty members Steve Tarrant and Mary Malloy have been using replica instruments, and historical texts (including Ptolemy's Geographia, John Seller's Seaman's Secrets, and Pedro Medina's Arte de Navigar), to understand the role of navigation and cartography in the maritime expansion of Europeans into the Caribbean. This presentation will introduce the Sea Semester program "Documenting Change in the Caribbean," offered on SEA's Woods Hole campus and aboard the schooner Corwith Cramer.

Dinner in Mystic
Jamms Restaurant in Mystic. A buffet group dinner. Please expect to pay a flat $25.00 for dinner, drinks extra. Please plan on staying for the after-dinner presentation.

Navigation and Astronomy at Mystic Seaport: History and Future
Jamms Restaurant. During coffee, after dinner, Don Treworgy, Director of the Planetarium at Mystic Seaport, will discuss the history of celestial navigation at Mystic Seaport, focusing in particular on the contributions of Susan P. Howell who was lost at sea while teaching celestial navigation in 1984. Don will also host a brainstorming session centered on the Planetarium's plans for nautical astronomy education in 2009, the international year of astronomy.

SUNDAY June 8, 2008

12:00 Noon
The Navigation of C.H. Townshend
Planetarium Classroom. Don Treworgy will discuss the special navigation methods of Charles Herve Townshend, a navigation enthusiast and experimentor of the late 19th century whose journals and instruments are preserved in the collection of Mystic Seaport. Townshend was the sort of navigator who would shoot Jupiter in broad daylight just because he knew it was possible.

Mystic Seaport Tour
Departing from the Planetarium. Extending Saturday's grounds tour. Opportunities to explore Mystic Seaport's other public exhibits, including the Navigational Instruments Shop and other exhibits in the Village Area, either in a guided group tour or individually (paid admission to Mystic Seaport or membership required).

Determining the Most Probable Position
Planetarium Classroom. Sometimes considered a mystery requiring difficult mathematics, Herbert Prinz will demonstrate simple graphical methods for determinining the most probable position from several standard altitude sights.

2:45 [small change]
Lunars: Modern Practice and Tools
Planetarium Classroom. Frank Reed will discuss modern techniques and software tools for lunar distance observations and analysis. Those who stick around for this final talk of the Navigation Weekend will receive a free copy of Frank Reed's “Lunarian Toolkit” software for analyzing lunar distance observations (or maybe just a free access code if it's not ready for shipping).

It's not too late to add something to the schedule. Appropriate topics include: traditional navigation techniques including Sumner Lines, lunar distance observations, Noon Sun sights, etc.; unique personal experiences in celestial navigation, for example, emergency navigation; anything related to the fiftieth anniversary of the modern Nautical Almanac; other aspects of traditional position finding. Please note: elementary navigation lessons, topics focused on the period before the year 1750, and modern electronic navigation tools like GPS are specifically excluded. Drop us an email through the web site listed below, and we will happily consider your topic for our program. Talks or presentations should range from 15 minutes to one hour in length. A standard digital projector will be available, or if you prefer, we also have traditional carousel slide projectors. Some of the topics of presentations from the "Navigation Weekend" two years ago are listed here: www.fer3.com/Mystic2006.

Mystic Seaport will be charging a small fee for attendance for the entire "Navigation Weekend": $10 for members of Mystic Seaport and anyone who has paid full admission to the museum, $35 for those who are not members or have not paid full admission. Presenters and members of the press are exempt from the attendance fee. Some events during the weekend are sponsored by the Susan P. Howell Memorial Fund. Inquiries regarding the "Navigation Weekend" may be made via the planning web site for the event located at www.fer3.com/Mystic2008/contact. Attendance is limited to 50 people. To reserve a spot, please use the reservation form on the web site. To learn about the last "Navigation Weekend", visit www.fer3.com/Mystic2006.

"Mystic Seaport, the Museum of America and the Sea," located in scenic Mystic, Connecticut has been providing education in celestial navigation for over 45 years. Classes in celestial navigation continue to be offered on a regular basis at the Mystic Seaport Planetarium. Daily live planetarium programs focus on constellation identification, backyard astronomy, and historic ocean navigation. Mystic Seaport is committed to highlighting the history of nautical astronomy through its exhibits and special programs both in 2008 and in 2009, which has been named the official, world-wide "Year of Astronomy". Mystic Seaport is the world's foremost maritime museum, home to the historic whaleship "Charles W. Morgan" built in 1841, as well as the square-rigged ship "Joseph Conrad", the Grand Banks fishing schooner "L.A. Dunton", and the steamboat "Sabino". Mystic Seaport's main web site is located at www.mysticseaport.org. [Note: the Small Craft Weekend, originally scheduled for the same weekend, June 6-8, has been cancelled by Mystic Seaport this year].

Mystic Seaport is located in southeastern Connecticut. You'll note that it's very close to Interstate-95, the major east coast highway. I-95 west of New Haven (which is about an hour west of Mystic) can be a driving nightmare, so I'll start with options to the east. Boston, Mass. is about an hour and half away by car. It's an easy drive, also an easy train trip (about two hours, see amtrak.com), and of course it's a wonderful travel destination all by itself. Many international flights fly into Boston's Logan airport. About 40 minutes away by car is T.F. Green airport south of Providence, Rhode Island. This is an extremely convenient airport, relatively uncrowded with numerous inexpensive flights. Southwest flies here. We recommend renting a car, but if you prefer not to, we can arrange rides.

There are also sometimes inexpensive flights into Bradley, the airport north of Hartford, Connecticut. This is about an hour and a quarter from Mystic. This is an international airport.

If you decide you want to visit New York City or you simply prefer flying into New York, LaGuardia airport, JFK, and Newark have many flights. The driving from New York is tough, to say the least. It's possible to take the train direct from Manhattan to Mystic or New London (about three hours, see amtrak.com). From the small train station in Mystic, it's an easy half-mile walk to the museum.

Note: The above maps are from Google Maps, but be forewarned: Mystic Seaport itself is mis-located in Google Maps by approximately 2000 feet as of April 20, 2008. This would ordinarily be a small error except that the location is on the wrong side of the Mystic River. If you use Google Maps for driving directions and enter "Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT" as your destination, the final location will be about three miles by road out of your way. I've contacted them, and perhaps they will fix it. In the interim, if you would like to use Google Maps for driving directions, enter "75 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, CT" as your destination.

Mystic itself is a great place to visit. If you haven't been to this area before, you may want to spend an extra day or two. In addition to Mystic Seaport Museum, the first nuclear submarine, Nautilus, is the center of the Submarine Museum a few miles away (only a small section of the submarine is open to visitors so that alone is maybe less interesting than it sounds). There are two enormous casinos about ten miles away with interesting entertainment options, some very good restaurants, and of course gambling, if that's your thing. And in general, Mystic, Noank, and Stonington are genuinely quaint New England seaside villages.

For lodgings, there are many unremarkable but pleasant motels near the highway about half a mile north of Mystic Seaport, a couple of nice B&Bs and smaller hotels closer to the center of town about half a mile south of Mystic Seaport, and if you rent a car, plenty of other choices within ten miles. The casinos have big, fancy hotels. When we held this event two years ago, there seemed to be a "center of gravity" of folks staying near the highway.

Contact: Frank E. Reed, consultant to the Mystic Seaport Planetarium, www.fer3.com/fer

Inquiries and Reservations: www.fer3.com/Mystic2008/contact

Legal disclaimer: Mystic Seaport, Frank Reed, Don Treworgy, and other participants in the Navigation Weekend cannot guarantee any of the events, activities, or participants in the Celestial Navigation Weekend. All events and activities are subject to change at any time. Participants are responsible for their own travel, food, accomodations, and other expenses. All other activities at Mystic Seaport require museum admission or membership.

URL for this page: www.fer3.com/Mystic2008